The election of Janet Barresi was the culmination of many years of planning and working by the Far Right in Oklahoma to reduce and eliminate the power of a large group of intelligent people who just ask too many pesky questions: teachers.
Contempt for teachers, administrators, and inexplicably the students, has been at the bottom of most of her administration’s missteps. It was the main reason she was elected in the first place. Now it’s time to remove her because of that contempt.
If Barresi loses the Republican primary this Tuesday, it will be a hard day for those shadow groups who have spent literally millions of dollars to put an obedient non-educator into the highest education post in the state. It will interrupt their plan to loot what taxpayers have built up for generations.
The Next Phase
But what will stop those millionaires from attempting to buy someone else with big campaign and personal money? Nothing.
So, June 24th can’t be the terminus of all of our efforts to put public education back into the hands of public education professionals like teachers and administrators. Whether Barresi wins or loses, Wednesday, June 25th will be just as important to the future of public education as Primary day on June 24th.
Unless we work to continue to organize and fight the passivity that allowed a small group of extremists voters to elect Barresi in the first place, it will happen again and again, just with new bought faces who are a little more smooth and better coached.
Teachers + Administrators = Political Power
What the Education Rally at the Capital this winter showed us is that when administrators and teachers work together toward the common purpose of advocating for the students and their needs, things happen:
- Politicians’ attitudes change.
- Legislators listen and act.
- Students benefit.
Those principals, superintendents, and school boards who saw the need to join with concerned teachers and advocate for children at that rally provided a strong and undeniable model. Administrators and school boards who are content to use “teachers unions” as the scapegoat for all of their own failings were shown a new model that day that no doubt made them uncomfortable.
Most importantly, the rally allowed the opportunity for a much needed reset in political relations between public school teachers, their administrators, and school boards.
There was a positive power that day that was undeniable, and certainly frightening to the legislators who chose to stay gone or hide out in some executive toilet in the Capitol building for most of the afternoon.
It was also a good opportunity for administrators, OEA member teachers, and non-OEA member teachers to all gather for the common purpose of advocating for children.
Had it not been for the stark illustration of Barresi the dentist showing such profound contempt for the welfare of the students for the sake of an ideology, this might not have happened.
For that, Janet Barresi, thank you!
Organizing now and staying organized as public educators, parents, and school boards is critical on either side of Tuesday. In the end, it is not Barresi who we are fighting. It’s the big-money power that put her there in the first place.
I admit, some of the personal, ad hominem attacks on Janet Barresi have made me laugh out loud and have been quite creative. But look, they are ad hominem attacks, which really doesn’t get us beyond the typical mud-slinging of political campaigns. And, they actually weaken us by promoting the assumption that getting Barresi out of office will solve our problems for good.
It won’t. The big money power in the shadows will still be there ready to buy the next superintendent.
So, we can’t let Barresi go for another four years and we can’t afford to let big money buy anyone else for another four years. What happens on Wednesday will be just as important as what happens on Tuesday.